The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit//transcripts/day007.04


Archive/File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day007.04
Last-Modified: 2000/07/20

   Q.   In your knowledge, in your time going through the
German diplomatic documents, and I appreciate you did not read
        the entire 400 tonnes -- nor can I claim to have read the
        400 tonnes of German documents -- were any documents there
        which came to your attention which showed a Hitler order
        for what we can call the Holocaust in the sense of the
        extermination of the Jews?
   A.   I would not come across them because my work was confined,
        where the original documents were concerned, to the years
        1933/1937, and where the editorial work was concerned, to
        the documents from 1939 to 1940.  I never had occasion to
        go in and look individually at the later documents.  We
        worked with the Nuremberg files and, of course, I was
        familiar with the evidence that was produced at Nuremberg

.          P-27



        which dealt with war crimes and I have been consulted
        about this from time to time.
   Q.   Did you have discussions with your colleagues at the
        Research Department about the progress of their work
when
        they were working on different periods?
   A.   No, because the whole project was concerned in the
years
        I was attached to it to completing series D of the
        documents which ended with Pearl Harbour, and to
        completing or doing the whole of the work on the years
        1933, 1937, which were published as Series C in the
        documents.  I never had any direct dealings with
documents
        dealing with the ----
   Q.   War years?
   A.   --- war years beyond that, no.
   Q.   You never heard from one of your colleagues there that
        they had found, stumbled across, a document of the
sort
        that I mentioned, that Hitler had given some
extraordinary
        orders about killing the Jews or any other ethnic
minority
        or persecuted people directly involving Hitler?
   A.   No, but I cannot think, see why that would have arisen
in
        our discussions.  We were working eight to nine hours
a
        day on the very large quantities of documents.  Each
        document was read by members of two countries.
        I collaborated mainly with the Frenchmen.
   Q.   You are familiar, Professor, also with some of the
other
        document collections outside your own area of
expertise

.          P-28



        because of research at that time for the Foreign
Office
        because, of course, you have written a number of
        distinguished works where you have had to draw on
        collections outside the Waddon Hall collection?
   A.   Oh, I have worked in the archives, in the American
        archives, for the '30s.  I worked in the Public Record
        Office.  I have worked in British private collections
and
        I have worked on published documents from all those
        European countries I had direct access to and those
which
        were translated into languages I could read.
   Q.   Professor Watt, from your knowledge of these archives
that
        you worked in, the Public Record Office in London, the
        national archives in the United States, the Foreign
Office
        collection in this country and elsewhere, would you
say
        that the records of the Third Reich, one way and
another,
        either in original ribbon copy or in carbon copy, are
        largely intact, give or take a few holes of what the
        Russians took?
   A.   No, there are very substantial gaps in the later
period.
   Q.   In the later period?
   A.   From 1941 onwards.
   Q.   In specific departments, like the SS or the Army or
the
        Air Force?
   A.   I think that the gaps are consistent with the files
not
        ending up in an archive and where they did to
destruction
        by one means or another, and to their falling into
hands

.          P-29



        of people who wanted to hang on them.
   Q.   For example, when the Germany archives at Potsdam was
        burned down in an air raid, that kind of thing?
   A.   That kind of thing and, in fact, some of the, one of
the
        worst accidents was when a couple of trucks carrying
        German Foreign Ministry records in the Secret
        classification collided with one another and caught
fire,
        and we had only fragments, burnt fragments, and the
more
        you touched them, the more they disintegrated.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Professor Watt, may I ask you, you may
not
        know the answer, but was there evidence that documents
had
        systematically had gone missing in the sense that
somebody
        had said, "We must take out a particular category of
        documents" or not?
   A.   Not in the Foreign Ministry, sir, because, my Lord,
the
        German Foreign Ministry practice, as we found out when
we
        were looking at the documents dealing with the origins
of
        the First World War, was either to deny the existence
of
        files which were relevant or, in a number of cases, to
        unstitch the backs of them and to remove the documents
so
        that the researcher was presented with what he
understood
        to be a complete file but was not.  Since in no case
were
        the researchers allowed access to the registries where
all
        these documents were and that one had noted, this kind
of
        gap misled a number of very prominent American
scholars.
   MR IRVING:  Professor Watt, can I ask, when was this

.          P-30



        unstitching done?  Are you suggesting after the war or
        during the war?
   A.   No, no.  It was done by the political archive in the
late
        20s and 30s.
   Q.   But not relating to the Third Reich records?
   A.   No, because the issue of anybody looking at them from
        outside would not have arisen at that stage.
   Q.   Thank you.  So, by and large, the records of entire
        departments are there, but sometimes there are gaps
where
        individual accidents happen, trucks colliding,
buildings
        burned down, but then there would have been copies
        elsewhere?
   A.   Not necessarily, no.  We were helped by the gentleman
        called Leursche who had filmed a great many of the
        important documents before the originals were
destroyed
        and, indeed, there was a great deal of dispute over
the
        genuineness of the text of the Nazis in 1939
discovered
        that this was photostat.
   Q.   How safe is it to draw negative conclusions in the way
        that I sometimes do (if I may ask a leading question)
on
        the basis of the fact that there is in the body of
        documents now existing 55 years later, after we have
        access to just about everything, including the
Bletchley
        Park intercepts which are enormous, how safely can one
say
        because there is not a document there, in your expert
        view, Professor Watt, would it be perverse to say the
fact

.          P-31



        that there is no such document after 55 years, it
would be
        perverse to say that, therefore, this document
probably
        did not exist?
   A.   I think there are two problems with that argument.
One is
        that the range of the destruction is something which
we
        cannot know because Nazi principles of registration of
        documents were, to put it mildly, somewhat amateurish.
        Secondly, the distribution of documents within the
offices
        over which the Nazi amateurs had taken control was
very
        peculiar; and, thirdly, as with other major leaders of
        other countries at that time, there are periods in
which
        they did not confide their thoughts to anybody else,
or to
        anybody else who might have recorded them.
                  That was, I think, the reason why the first
        sight or the first news about the Hitler diaries,
alleged
        Hitler diaries, was for a moment so uplifting a piece
of
        information.  I came to hear about it when I had just
come
        back from Finland and I had missed all the previous
        kerfuffle about it.  My first reaction was at last
        something is going to fill in the gaps, but then, of
        course, I realized that it was not.
   Q.   Professor Watt, you are familiar with the way the
German
        documents look, Civil Servant documents.  They had a
kind
        of standard layout, did they not?
   A.   Those that came from professional offices, yes.
   Q.   How would you classify the SS in this respect?  Would
the

.          P-32



        documents of the SS that came into Abteilung in
        Langswei  ----
   A.   I think there it depended very largely whether the SS
man
        concerned was a trained bureaucrat or not.
   Q.   There was actually a Civil Service regulation, a
manual,
        I believe, on how documents had to be laid out, the
        reference number, the address, the location of the
address
        list, and so on?
   A.   That is true, but there was also a very, the sort of
macho
        SS type who says, "Do not bother me with all this
        nonsense".  So that one cannot, I think, read anything
out
        of this one way or another.
   Q.   Are you familiar with German security classifications?
   A.   Yes, up to Top Secret and so on, yes.
   Q.   If a document is marked "Vertraulich", is that round
about
        the lowest security classification, "Confidential"?
   A.   I suppose so, yes.  It is somewhere between
"Restricted"
        and "Confidential" in the British classification.
   Q.   We will stick to the British classification because
the
        American classifications are different, are they not?
   A.   Yes.
   Q.   For example, American "Top Secret" is our Most Secret.
If
        we go up the next rung in the ladder "Geheim"?
   A.   "Geheim" is" Secret.
   Q.   The one above that, we then divide?
   A.   "Streng geheim", "hochts geheim".  The problem with
that

.          P-33



        kind of document is exactly the same as one has in the
        British system, that there is a tendency to
overclassify
        simply to emphasise the importance of the individual
and
        of the post that he has occupied.  It is not a very
good
        guide.
   Q.   If you were to be shown a document in which the
        classification "Geheim" had been upgraded manually to
        "Geheim Kommandosache"?
   A.   Yes.
   Q.   Then that would apply that somebody attached
importance to
        the increased security rating?
   A.   It would certainly imply that somebody did, yes.
        Whether  ----
   Q.   Conversely, if somebody had crossed out the
         "Kommandosache" and left it just as "Geheim", that
would
        imply that they thought it was overclassified?
   A.   That is certainly true.
   Q.   And this would indicate that the person who wrote that
        document did attach importance to security
        classifications; he was being pernickety?
   A.   Either that or he was engaged in a feud with the
person
        who had first put the original grade on.  I do not
think
        you could arrive at any distinct generalization
without
        looking at the document concerned.
   Q.   There is a parting of the ways, is there not, in this
top
        security classification of Geheim Kommandosache on the

.          P-34



        Army documents, roughly speaking, and Geheim
Reichsache on
        the political documents?
   A.   Those were classifications which go back before the
Nazi
        period, yes.
   Q.   But normally you find Geheim Reichsache --
        R-E-I-C-H-S-A-C-H-E ----
   A.   Yes, that would be -- certainly if one found that from
the
        Wehrmacht(?) period, one would regard that as the top
        classification.
   Q.   Then there another one on top of that which is "Nur
durch
        offizier", "Only by officer's hand"?
   A.   No.  That is an instruction as to how the documents
should
        be handled.  It is a bit like the -- there are very
        similar classifications in the British and it has to
do
        with the handling of the document in transition, not
with
        the actual -- I would have expected to find "Nur durch
        offizierhande" on a document which was already
classified
        as "Geheim" or "Hochstgeheim" or "Sprengheim" or one
of
        the classifications of ...
   Q.   One of the highest -- "hochstgeheim" is H-O-C-H-S-T?
   A.   Yes, that means "Highest Secret".
   Q.   Very rare.  I have to admit, I have not seen that.  To
our
        surprise, we found another secret classification,
        Professor Watt, in the last day or two, on some of the
        documents, "AR".  We have come to the conclusion, I
think,
        although this speaks against me, that this is the

.          P-35



        classification "Aktion Reinhard".  That is a possible
or
        probable interpretation.
   A.   I never came across anything like that.  I had a look
at
        the document.

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